March 31st, 2009
12:37 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Lose your job, keep your car

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Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

Ford and General Motors today introduced new incentive programs designed to lure car buyers worried about losing their jobs.

Ford, as part of its "Drive One" deal, says it will make as many as 12 monthly payments of $700 or less on behalf of new car purchasers who lose their jobs. The program begins today and will continue through June 1.

The offer applies to buyers of any new Ford, Lincoln or Mercury vehicle.

GM is calling its plan "GM Total Confidence." The automaker will make as many as nine monthly payments of up to $500 each for buyers who lose their jobs "for economic reasons" during the first two years of ownership. Only those eligible for state unemployment benefits will be able to have their car payments covered.

The incentive programs are similar to one introduced in January by South Korea’s Hyundai.


Filed under: Airline Safety • Andrew Torgan • auto bailout • Economy • Finance • Gas Prices • Oil • Unemployment
March 31st, 2009
11:45 AM ET

8-year-old girl last seen playing outside

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Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

“When planning a visit to Tracy, you’ll want to come early and stay late!”

The friendly greeting hails from a city that embraces small town living, and security. Tracy was voted one of the country's safest communities in 2007. Nestled in the San Joaquin Valley of Northern California, Tracy is about an hour’s drive from San Francisco, but a world away from the glare of the national spotlight. Until now. Until a little girl disappeared.

A prayer vigil was held Monday night for 8-year-old Sandra Cantu, missing since Friday. “We just want her returned to a safe place,” says family spokesperson Lisa Encarnacion. “They are devastated.”

Nobody is giving up hope that Sandra will be found. Sergeant Tony Sheneman of the Tracy Police Department said, "We have no evidence to indicate she's been harmed and is not alive.”


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
March 31st, 2009
11:15 AM ET

I need a hero … but where to find one?

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Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

Our entertainment unit recently reported on superhero characters created during the Depression, among them Superman, Batman, Captain America and Wonder Woman.

Well, we’re in an economic pickle now, so who qualifies as a hero?

The most recent survey available came from the week before the inauguration in January, when the Harris Poll asked more than 2,600 adults to name their heroes, not prompting them with any names.

Given the timing, it probably was no surprise that Barack Obama topped the list.

The remainder of the top 10 were, in order: Jesus Christ, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, John F. Kennedy, Chesley Sullenberger and Mother Theresa.

In case you don’t recognize the name Sullenberger, he was the pilot – the hero pilot – who put that commercial airliner down safely in the Hudson River, saving 159 lives.


Filed under: 360° Radar • David Schechter
March 31st, 2009
11:01 AM ET

First lady set for world stage

CNN's Erica Hill reports on how Michelle Obama may be received on her first overseas trip as first lady.

Filed under: Erica Hill • Michelle Obama
March 31st, 2009
10:42 AM ET

Morning Buzz: President Obama in Europe

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Penny Manis
AC360° Senior Producer

President Obama visits five nations in more than eight days. His first stop is the G-20 Summit in London today. The G-20 consists of finance ministers and central bank governors from the European Union and 19 countries. This group represents 90% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product.

Topping the agenda: creating a global stimulus package, preventing protectionism by individual countries, helping developing nations that have been hit hard by the recession, and toughening regulations on financial markets.

The President has his work cut out for him, trying to convince other world leaders to get on the same page. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is already threatening to walk out if the meetings involve “false success w/language that sounds good but contains no commitments.” Oh my. Ed Henry will have the latest.


Filed under: Penny Manis • The Buzz
March 31st, 2009
10:39 AM ET

Sharp growth in suburban minority enrollment

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Richard Fry
Senior Research Associate
Pew Hispanic Center

The student population of America's suburban public schools has shot up by 3.4 million in the past decade and a half, and virtually all of this increase (99%) has been due to the enrollment of new Latino, black and Asian students, according to an analysis of public school data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. Once a largely white enclave, suburban school districts in 2006-07 educated a student population that was 41.4% non-white, up from 28% in 1993-94 and not much different from the 43.7% non-white share of the nation's overall public school student population. At the same time, suburban school districts have been gaining "market share"; they educated 38% of the nation's public school students in 2006-07, up from 35% in 1993-94.

Despite the sharp rise in the racial and ethnic diversity of suburban district enrollments overall, there has been only a modest increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of student populations at the level of the individual suburban school. For example, in 2006-07, the typical white suburban student attended a school whose student body was 75% white; in 1993-94, this same figure had been 83%. So at a time when the white share of student enrollment in suburban school districts was falling by 13 percentage points (from 72% in 1993-94 to 59% in 2006-07), the exposure of the typical white suburban student to minority students in his or her own school was growing by a little more than half that much-or 8 percentage points.


Filed under: Education
March 31st, 2009
10:38 AM ET

Dear President Obama #71: Busting the bosses – is it over?

Reporter's Note: President Obama has solicited the advice of leading economists, top business leaders, and of course some of the most seasoned political pros. He’s also asked regular citizens for ideas, and that’s where I come in with a letter every day to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

So you gave Rick Wagoner, the head of General Motors, a lift to the old bus stop, did you? A trip down Pack Your Bags Lane. A one-way ticket to Loserville. I suspect he won’t be scratching for peanut money. Still, I can’t say that I’m surprised. While the Lexus and loafers crowd always tries to say that they are the only ones who can figure out how to fix the mess we are in, plenty of Americans don’t buy that. Kind of like letting an arsonist run the fire department because he knows just where he’ll strike next.

Of course, this big move of yours raises a question: Why just him and not the rest of the We-Are-Titans-of-Business-But-We-Need-A-Bailout crowd? You’ve probably already heard the chorus of folks screaming, “What about the bankers?”; suggesting that while you are pushing the auto folks, you seem less eager to kick any ribs in the financial sector.


March 31st, 2009
10:38 AM ET

GM chief sacrificed because of Obama's AIG woes

Editor's note: Frank Micciche is managing director of the Next Social Contract Initiative at the New America Foundation, a think tank that promotes thought from across the ideological spectrum. He has worked for Sallie Mae and for two former governors, both Republicans: John Engler of Michigan and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.
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Frank Micciche
Special to CNN

In a recent interview on "60 Minutes," President Obama laughingly lamented that, "The only thing less popular than putting money into banks is putting money into the auto industry."

Explaining the dissonance between his mood and the grim reality of the situation, he cited the need for "a little gallows humor to get you through the day."

In that spirit, evidently, the president today issued a fiat to Chrysler that it immediately finalize negotiations on a merger or lose any possibility of future federal government support. And the company with which they are being forced to consummate the merger? Fiat, of course.

And so the Woody Allen movie that is the auto bailout continues.


March 31st, 2009
10:31 AM ET

The double-standard question haunting today's Detroit announcement

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Elana Schor

President Obama is about to administer tough medicine to GM and Chrysler, giving them 60 days and 30 days, respectively, to formulate workable plans for financial survival - in addition to securing the resignation of GM CEO Rick Wagoner.

Wagoner's departure hardly comes as a shock, given that the once-mighty General Motors began its current swoon under his stewardship. But Michiganders and Wall Street analysts alike are pointedly asking the same question Josh raised last night at the TPM mothership: Why did the Obama administration call for Wagoner's head but allow ineffectual banking CEOs to stay on the job and the government dole?

Here's how Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (MI), the third-ranked House Republican leader, put it to Reuters: Mr. Wagoner has been asked to resign as a political offering despite his having led GM's painful restructuring to date. Mr. Wagoner has honorably resigned for the sake of his company's working families. When will the Wall Street CEOs receiving TARP funds summon the honor to resign? Will this White House ever bother to raise the issue? I doubt it.


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